- Communication Style: The communication style of Sri Lankans tends to be polite. When speaking with those they do not know well, they may tell their counterparts what they want to hear to avoid conflict. Their communication style can come across as ambiguous and indirect.
- Indirect Communication: Sri Lankans have a courteous, indirect speech style. This means they prefer to insinuate things rather than be explicit in their meaning. To questions and requests that require a yes or no answer, a Sri Lankan's preoccupation with saving face and being polite can lead them to answer ‘yes’ – whether they mean this or not. For a Sri Lankan, a flat ‘no’ may indicate that you wish to end the relationship and can lead to the loss of face for the other person. One way of navigating around this is to check for clarification several times using open-ended questions.
- Hierarchy: Norms of communication are in part dictated by the observed social hierarchy that underpins Sri Lankan society. Respect for and deference to authority figures in and outside the home is prevalent in various ways, such as being sensitive regarding how they respond to, or deny, various requests based on the person’s status.
- Soft Voices: Sri Lankans often speak in low or hushed tones in public. Shouting or loud expressions can draw negative attention. Speaking loudly may also be interpreted as being heated or angry, thus causing the speaker to lose face.
- Physical Contact: Sri Lankans prefer not to touch others when it can be avoided. Body contact between genders is kept minimal throughout most of Sri Lanka as public displays of affection are considered to be social taboo. If it does occur, it is usually only between people of the same caste or family.
- Personal Space: Sri Lankans respect each other’s personal space. The general distance people keep from one another is similar to the norm in Australia, roughly an arm’s length.
- Eye Contact: Sri Lankans often hold direct eye contact with those of the same status or age. Avoiding it can be one of the easiest indicators of shyness or hesitancy. However, some people may keep eye contact minimal or avert their eyes from people of opposite genders. Some females may avoid eye contact altogether.
- Gestures: Sri Lankans often use their whole hand to point or gesture towards people or objects, as it is impolite to point with the index finger. Beckoning is done by facing the palm of the hand to the ground and waving the fingers towards oneself. Individual fingers should not be used in this gesture.
- Head Tilt: People often tilt or ‘waggle’ their head to the side or both sides to indicate agreement and understanding.
- Feet: Feet are considered to be the ‘dirtiest’ or most impure part of the body. It is considered offensive to touch or point to things with one’s feet. Moreover, putting one’s feet up on a sofa or table is considered rude.
- Head: Sri Lankans consider the head to be the most sacred part of one’s body. Therefore, it is considered very rude and inconsiderate to touch another person’s head, especially children.